The smoldering ruins called Rush Limbaugh dramatize one political truism: seemingly impregnable fortresses are most vulnerable to suicidal implosions. Despite decades of volcanic vitriol, no outside force had yet penetrated Rush's propaganda bubble chamber, full of pretend entertainment. No doubt, the fall of the Dittohead Dynasty reflects both the gratuity of Limbaugh's latest abuse and the wholesomeness of the victim. For the record, Sandra Fluke's noble decency stared down a serial miscreant. After all, other fringe charlatans haven't suddenly lost 140 sponsors, nor did some new-found Democratic charge deter Rush's grotesque buffoonery.
Though the bully pulpit resides in the White House, shifty, snarling bullies still sneer their way to fame and fortune. The historic bully pulpit, a powerful tool for past leaders, has withered, crowded out by bullying puppets who speak for backroom billionaires. When a Limbaugh commandeers 900 stations and spans four presidencies, enough ballast still hoodwinks a shipload of fools, suckers, and bigots.
Though rightwing politicians are doing their best, the prize for broadcast browbeating goes clearly to this master of contempt. Rush is the moral equivalent of a toxic super-fund site. For decades, his career and obscene income depended on one monotonous regime: every day find some new fury to outdo yesterday's outrage, feeding on minorities, foreigners, and liberals when women don't work. The plotline is no mystery: spew forth wanton abuse, express incredulity anyone would take offense, then muddy the waters and cap off with the pained grievance of the professional victim. Sarah Palin learned from a master.
After this latest fiasco, Rush was true to form, blaming everyone but himself with false apologies and crude indirection: "Against my own instincts, against my own knowledge, against everything that I know to be right and wrong, I descended to [my opponents'] level when I used those two words to describe Sandra Fluke. That was my error. I became like them."
This is raging hypocrisy in high relief, so odious that anxious advertisers run for the exits, even as such withdrawals make Limbaugh a martyr to his troops. But sponsors, profit driven all, could not sustain any fiction Rush was "a voice crying in the wilderness," as my friend Clay Reynolds quips, when it was obvious he more resembled "a madman beating a dead horse." Why, Rush is now so discredited, he may have no other career choices than to follow where all dishonored Rethuglicans go -- run for office as virtue incarnate. In the tradition of Palin, Gingrich and Santorum, patriotism is hardly the last refuge of scoundrels when electoral politics winks, beckoning with the chance of a lifetime.
Ravings from the Tiniest Titan
In this light, I part company with shoot-from-the-hip liberals urging Rush get fired. Item #1: "FCC should clear Limbaugh from airwaves" declares Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan and Gloria Steinem in a CNN posting. "Clear," as in identify, stifle and banish. And for what great crime? -- "language that deliberately dehumanizes his targets. Like the sophisticated propagandist Josef Goebbels, [Rush] creates rhetorical frames -- and the bigger the lie, the more effective -- inciting listeners to view people they disagree with as sub-humans."
Sorry, but I protest that deceptive, rhetorical frames which "dehumanize" foes alone qualify as mortal or criminal wickedness worthy of exile by government decree. I'd favor all satires that ridicule Limbaugh and his ilk as the inhuman troglodytes they are. Following Fonda, Al Sharpton agrees, with fallacious logic that evil speakers deserve punishment because they violate that vacuous standard for broadcast licenses -- serving the "public interest."
Can't the live public vote its own interests with its ears and purchasing power? Do we want an FCC rigidly acting like "all the people own all the airwaves," for that way lies micromanaging by political correctness. Not all wrongheaded imbeciles merit exile but rather open refutation, though I admit corporate hegemony cuts hard into equal access (thank goodness for the Internet). Still, who buys the not-so-sharp reverend's reasoning, that removing offensive voices "does not impair your right to speak what you believe, but it does say that you are not going to do that to offend groups of Americans based on their race, their gender, their sexual status"?
Yes, it does. This stance would censor "hate speech" -- a term full of logical holes and bad definitions -- especially when rhetoric is delinked from anything vaguely criminal. There goes 95% of comedy, satire, and gross humor. Can't do dumb blond, mother-in-law, Don Juan jokes, or anything that touches on skin color. Too big a price to dump Rush.
Nazis? Hitler? Come on!
Further, the Fonda-Steinem crew knows better than dragging in the wingnut cheap shot, comparing all foes to Nazi henchmen, namely "the sophisticated propagandist Josef Goebbels." Hell, the Nazis would have canned this loose cannon -- after commandeering his absurd $50 million income. Excuse me, but civilization must distinguish apocalyptic, ferociously-militarized mass murderers from obnoxious loudmouths who murder reputations, fortunately sometimes their own.
There are better, less noxious ways to exterminate stinging insects. Occupy Rush advertisers, sure, and boycott their products. Unfurl pitchforks, protest his shows, addictions, and sleazy character. Openly dramatize daily imbecility, misogyny, and bigotry. Yes, I know Rush thrives on publicity, but that doesn't preclude pinpointing his every lie, every time, every day.
We're halfway home, if truly 53% of Americans want Limbaugh off the air. I propose, further, that Rush has squandered whatever "entertainment" value claimed, a corpse compared to laugh-out-loud antics of Palin, Gingrich and Santorum. Lurid nastiness is only amusing to fellow corpses.
Bottomless Pit Hits Bottom?